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Nigerian Christians Protest Muslim-Muslim Ticket as a ‘Declaration of War’

Image: Pius Utomi Ekpei / Contributor / Getty

The field is set for Nigeria’s 2023 presidential election, leaving its Christian citizens in a quandary.

In selecting candidates to replace the current head of state, Muhammadu Buhari, one dominant political party ignored customary protocols ensuring geographic rotation of power, while the other party—in the face of severe warnings—abandoned the customary commitment to religious representation.

Believers may desert them both.

Africa’s most-populous nation is roughly divided between a majority Muslim north and a majority Christian south. An unwritten agreement has rotated the presidency between the two regions. Buhari, a Muslim, hails from Borno State in the northeast.

The first transgression, by geography, happened in May when the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) nominated Atiku Abubakar from Adamawa State, also in Nigeria’s northeast. A Muslim, he chose as his vice-presidential running mate Ifeanyi Okowa, the Christian governor of Delta State in the south.

One month later, the incumbent All Progressives Congress (APC) nominated Bola Tinubu, the Muslim former governor of Lagos State in the south. But since he hails from a Christian region, fears were raised that his Muslim rival for president might sweep the north—viewed by many as a more reliable voting bloc. Speculation was rampant he would choose a Muslim vice-presidential candidate to compensate.

“We will consider such action as a declaration of war,” warned the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), which represents almost all the nation’s Protestants and Catholics. “We … will mobilize politically against any political party that sows the seed of religious conflict.” CAN also opposes any Christian-Christian political ticket as well.

Similar statements were issued by two of CAN’s five blocs: the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria—“Meet us at the polls,” it said—and the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria.

Opposition extended beyond religion.

The civil society Middle Belt Forum warned the APC against breaking Nigerian unity. And a leaked security report—denied by Buhari—said such a choice would destabilize the nation and risk Christian lives.

Tinubu defied them all.

“I believe this is the man who can help me bring the best governance to all Nigerians,” he said on July 10, defending his selection of the Muslim former governor of Borno, Kashim Shettima. “In this crucial moment, where so much is at stake, we must prioritize leadership, competence, and the ability to work as a team over other considerations.”

The vice president of Nigeria holds no formal power. But Christians were aghast at the affront.

“In a country with 100 million people in each religion, are you saying there is no competent Christian who can be your partner?” asked Samson Ayokunle, the outgoing president of CAN. “If you are picking a Muslim, it means you have an agenda.”

Ayokunle, a Baptist, assured that CAN, which this week will rotate to new leadership, has no preference in terms of political parties. Tinubu governed Lagos well, he said, and Abubakar has never picked a fight with Christians.

However, “CAN said loud and clear that we will teach a lesson to any party with a Muslim-Muslim ticket,” Ayokunle told CT. The only complication? “Christians have not been voting enough.”

It may be about to change. Denominations across Nigeria…

This article was originally published at Christianity Today on July 26, 2022. Please click here to read the full text.

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Nigerian Christians Protest Deborah’s Death

Image: Courtesy of Gideon Para-Mallam

Thousands of churches across Nigeria demanded an end to sectarian killings on Sunday, horrified by the mob assault on a female university student accused of blasphemy. But fearful of more violence, their approach differed significantly—by geography.

“The overwhelming majority of our churches in the south participated, many going to the streets in peaceful protest,” said Testimony Onifade, senior special assistant to the president of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN). “Gathering together, we condemned this gruesome act and demanded the government identify, arrest, and prosecute the culprits.”

But in the north, where Muslims represent the majority of Nigerians, John Hayab described 20 minutes set aside to pray for divine intervention. The president of CAN’s Kaduna state chapter lauded the “solemn” ceremony observed by all northern denominations, amid a ban on protests by local authorities as some Muslims had threatened counterdemonstrations.

Instead, a select group of 120 Christian leaders gathered in a Kaduna city church, guarded by police and security agencies.

There was good reason for caution.

Two weeks ago, in Nigeria’s northwestern-most state of Sokoto, Deborah Samuel was beaten to death and set on fire by fellow students at Shehu Shagari College of Education. Officials and police intervened in vain.

Two students were arrested. Protesting for their release, Muslim supporters proceeded to destroy an additional 11 buildings, descended on Christian shops in the city, and besieged the palace of the sultan of Sokoto who had condemned the May 12 murder.

According to her friend Rakia, Samuel’s last words were, “What do you hope to achieve with this?”

After a colleague shared Islamic material on an exam-prep social media group, Samuel posted an audio recording asking him to remove it. Friends who overheard some Muslim students deeming her response to be blasphemous urged her to retract the statement. Instead, she responded…

This article was originally published at Christianity Today on May 25, 2022. Please click here to read the full text.

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Nigeria’s Government Agrees: Islamist Terrorists Target Christians

Nigeria Catholic March
Christians faithfuls march on the street of Abuja during a prayer and penance for peace and security in Nigeria in Abuja on March 1, 2020. – The Catholic Bishops of Nigeria gathered faithfuls as well as other Christians and other people to pray for security and to denounce the barbaric killings of Christians by the Boko Haram insurgents and the incessant cases of kidnapping for ransom in Nigeria. (Photo by Kola SULAIMON / AFP)

This article was first published at Christianity Today on March 2, 2020.

The Nigerian government now agrees with what church leaders have been complaining for years: Christians are the target of jihadist terrorism.

“In the wake of a renewed onslaught by our tireless military against Boko Haram and their ISWAP (Islamic State West Africa Province) allies in recent times, the insurgents have apparently changed their strategy,” said Lai Mohammed, the minister of information and culture, at a press conference last week.

“They have started targeting Christians and Christian villages for a specific reason, which is to trigger a religious war and throw the nation into chaos.”

In comments given exclusively to CT, the administration of President Muhammad Buhari clarified that this targeting is not new.

“Yes, Boko Haram is targeting individual Christians. In doing so, their target is all Nigerians, and their goal is to divide Christian brother against Muslim brother,” Mohammed, the information minister, told CT.

“What Boko Haram seeks—and always has sought—is to drive a wedge between Christians and Muslims in Nigeria.

“By targeting Christians, they seek to promulgate the falsehood that…

Please click here to read the full article at Christianity Today.

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Nigerian Christians Marched Sunday to Protest Persecution

WhatsApp Image 2020-02-03 at 8.53.31 PM
Courtesy of CAN

This article was first published at Christianity Today on February 3, 2020.

Having finished his Sunday sermon from Psalm 18 on God as a stronghold who delivers his people from their enemies, Enoch Adeboye then led them to a cemetery.

It was an ironic yet appropriate choice.

Wearing a bright green tuxedo, the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) in Lagos, Nigeria, marched three miles yesterday holding a placard that declared: “All Souls are Precious to God.”

Adeboye and his congregation, one of the largest in the world, answered the call issued by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) for a three-day fast this past weekend, concluding in a prayer walk. Based on reports from its state chapters and local media, CAN estimates 5 million people marched in 28 of Nigeria’s 36 states on Sunday.

“Though we have protested before, this event took a new dimension,” CAN president Samson Ayokunle told CT.

“With one voice, we said ‘no’ to killings, ‘no’ to security negligence, and ‘no’ to the persecution of Christians in Nigeria. It is a wake-up call to the government.”

Launched on January 29 to protest the beheading of Brethren pastor Lawan Andimi, the chairman of a regional CAN chapter in Adamawa state, by Boko Haram two weeks earlier, the prayer was also a protest at the Nigerian government’s failure to stop the abductions and killings.

Terrorist attacks, as well as clashes between mostly Muslim herdsmen and mostly Christian farmers, resulted in more than 100 deaths in January alone.

“Lord, have mercy on Nigeria, let there be peace and security,” said Adeboye. “God sees all things and knows where the terrorists are hiding.

“We pray that God send his light to Nigeria and expose the evildoers in the country.”

In the perspective of CAN, these reach into the upper levels of government.

“O Lord, in Jesus Name, expose all the…”

Please click here to read the full article at Christianity Today, and here to read the op-ed submitted by Muhammadu Buhari, president of Nigeria.